Radiolab

Radiolab is produced by WNYC Radio and hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.  It is aimed at combining science and technology with questions about morality and humanity.

Each episode begins with the hosts introducing the main topic. However, different reporters take over and interview the featured guest about a personal experience and subsequent experts around the subject matter.  I found the alternation of reporters beneficial because the reporters usually take months to prepare their stories—the connections they develop with their subjects enhances the moral questions that arise.

Topics vary greatly and by the end of each episode, the listener becomes a part of the debate. In the episode “Breaking News,” Adobe’s new program in development is highlighted.  Adobe’s new program uses only a 30-minute recording of a person’s voice to create fictitious audio in the subjects voice, and other software can even augment a person’s face on video so it appears like they are actually speaking.  This led to the debate whether this type of technology should be released to the public with the emergence of fake news and the ability for people to create realistic videos of world leaders speaking.

The way that Radiolab edits its episodes is also what makes it so engaging.  When the reporters are talking to the various guests, the conversations are succinctly cut to leave out any pauses to keep a steady pace.  Abumrad and Krulwich also occasionally interject to remind the listeners of previous information.

I think the use of additional audio clips make the episodes more captivating because it allows the listener to gain other aspects of the story.  This technique is highlighted in “David and the Wire,” surrounding David Weinberg, who would record every minute of his day-to-day life with a hidden audio recorder to see how it changed his relationship with loved ones.  Throughout the interview, clips of his recordings were included so the listener can grasp the magnitude of the story.  It was at times uncomfortable hearing clips of private conversations between friends and the dismay certain friends would have that were aware of his activity.

Radiolab’s ability to make broad topics, like nuclear energy or black holes, accessible to the average listener is what makes it so engaging.  The inclusion of personal stories and moral dilemmas humanizes complicated subject matter and leaves the listener with a new perspective of the world.